As a Parisian, last month was a real example of life with its mixed feelings, bumps, fights and victories. Thirty days ago our lives were hit by the dramatic Bataclan shootings. Violence was next door as almost every Parisian knew somebody who was in the attacked restaurants or concert place. Personally, my first cousin with two of her friends were the three survivors of Le Petit Cambodge restaurant and one of our employees was hit by shrapnel fragments while attending the Bataclan concert. Fortunately, they are both OK today but really shocked.

We were all shocked and concerned because the terrorists were French or Belgian and born in the same country we live in.  How come our societies can create such a situation? We were all impacted but life had to go on and the vast majority of Parisians decided to live normally. As our transatlantic friends say “The show must go on!”

Some days later, tenths of Presidents and Prime ministers came to Paris to launch the COP21 where 195 countries had as their objective to limit global warming. Organising the conference was a real challenge for France after the Copenhagen failure. France proposed to host the event that nobody wanted to organize because of the lack of consensus.

Helped by the momentum created in Paris after the chaos and fear the attacks generated, one month after the massacre, the president of the COP21 announced with a soulful voice that a consensus was achieved between all parties. Optimism won against terror and negative feelings and showed us that willingness and determination always win. After the chaos in Paris, the world showed us, in that same city, the route to follow for a better world.

Quite far from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) you will say.  Not so much in fact. First, it is when ASGM is most attacked — mercury releases, child labour, biodiversity destruction, conflict fuelling, drug money laundering —  that ASGM is capable of its best. Some ASGM communities are capable of providing their best by extracting gold in such responsible conditions that one of the most prestigious initiatives, the Nobel Peace prize, selected ASM gold to mint their medals. This shows the way for the sector and proves to the world that artisanal miners are capable of the best. Optimism, adversity and determination are capable of moving mountains exactly like what happened in Paris these last two weeks.

This being said, yesterday, after watching the COP21 text adoption, I asked myself if the sector I have dedicated a lot of time in the last 20 years, the ASGM one, was COP21 compatible. How come an extractive sector producing a metal that has no strategic nor essential use like gold (jewellery and investment constitutes more than 90% of the total 2014 demand and gold accumulated above the ground totals more than 60 years of actual mine production) can be COP21 compatible?  When it comes to industrial extraction, one can understand that a metal emitting 1 ton of Greenhouse gases per ounce, more than 32 time its own weight, and providing a low social impact (1 kilogram of industrial gold provides 0,3 jobs for one year[1]) has not a lot of future if Paris climate agreement becomes our new Bible.  But when this exact same kilogram of yellow shining metal is extracted by artisanal miners and sustains the livelihood for one year of 50 miners’ families and becomes the economic driver of rural territories while extracted according to the highest standards of the whole sector, the Fairmined ones, I start again to believe that I am in the right place when helping ASGM miners reaching ethical markets. Yes! ASGM, when framed by responsible standards like the Fairmined label, are in line with #COP21 objectives thanks to its environmental to social ratio.

ASM Gold becomes then a fantastic sustainable development tool.

Patrick Schein — Refiner and trader of ASGM Gold

To understand in less than 3 minutes the impact of fairmined gold click here


[1]“Responsible gold mining and value distribution” – World Gold Council – October 2013

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